Forte Frozen Yogurt, Merced
Ever since I moved to Merced, I've been saying to anyone who would listen, and many who wouldn't, that what Merced really needed (besides a brew pub, of course) is an ice cream store, family/independently owned, downtown. There is a Cold Stone Creamery, right next to the movie theater, and particularly on warm nights and weekends it can be packed. I've noticed that many of the patrons are young people, presumably too young for the bars, who want a place to hang in the evening before or after a movie. Well, there just isn't such a place....(other than Starbucks and the Cold Stone, both institutions that I really dislike.)
So, I was thrilled to hear that a new frozen yogurt place was opening up on Main Street downtown in the historical Merced Theater building, even if I am not the biggest frozen yogurt fan. I was among the first customers to check it out when it opened this past Friday evening, just in time to take advantage of the crowds (or what passes for a crowd in Merced, in any case) strolling the closed downtown streets at the Cap and Town Festival celebrating Michelle Obama's appearance at UC Merced's commencement.
First impression: yes, this will meet the need I saw. The decor is very hip and modern, Asian influenced. Half an hour after opening every seat was taken (and though I am sure some of the patrons were family and friends, obviously some were festival-goers). Music for a generation younger than me was playing on the sound system.
The shop is independent and family owned, according to a young man at the register who identified himself as one of the owners. The website expresses their interest in supporting local youth, sustainability, and health.
The set-up: I wasn't crazy about it, though I could see its advantages and how it might appeal to a younger crowd. Basically, it is self-serve: you get a (biodegradable, recyclable) cup, and serve yourself by pulling levers for each flavor from steel vats along one wall; then add whatever toppings you want from a large selection set up like a salad bar along an adjacent wall. You get your spoon when you pay at the cashier at the end of the line, and then can take to go or eat at one of the scattered tables or bars in the room. Cost is by the ounce: 47 cents an ounce, regardless of type of topping. The biggest disadvantage is that the set-up discourages free tastes (and I wasn't offered any). Advantage: you can get as large or as small of a serving as you want; and mix and match to your heart's content.
I wanted to keep it simple on my first try. Looked for the most unfamilar item on the menu: for me that was Acai, the berry of a Brazilian palm tree, that may or may not have high levels of antioxidants:
Other flavors on the current menu include cheesecake, green tea, rasberry and peanut butter. The website lists flavors and nutritional information.
I topped my serving, which I would called medium in size, with a generous number of fresh blueberries. Other toppings included fresh strawberries, chocolate bits, sprinkles, coconut: there were at least twenty topping options. My total cost for the bowl, to go, was about $3; the price seemed reasonable.
The Acai had a mild, not very sweet and somewhat grassy taste, and went well with the blueberries which added a touch more sweetness. I'd order it again, although the overall taste wasn't as rich as I'd like (but that is one reason I prefer ice cream to frozen yogurt), and there were a few bits of ice (I am wondering if that is because it had just been made? I don't know enough about frozen yogurt to really say).
Bottom line: I was thrilled to see the store there, and told the owner so, even if I wasn't thrilled with the product. Still, it was better than Pinkberry (IMO; have only tried PInkberry once but wasn't impressed) and local to boot. Besides, it is right here in downtown Merced, not in LA. or somewhere else. I look forward to many visits after movies, and to trying all of the various toppings/flavor combos. Recommended.
319 W Main St, Merced, CA 95340
47 cents an ounce?! What kind of college student can afford that! The average price in the Bay Area is 35 cents an ounce.
Great idea, but I'd take a less decorated establishment for a much cheaper frozen yogurt. With these prices, it seems like they're just exploiting the fact that there is no competition for a cheaper yogurt...
Since I am not a frozen yogurt fan, I don't know what going rate is or should be ....but as I said, my serving seemed reasonably priced to me. Cost includes not just the yogurt, but the toppings, which as I mentioned were quite varied and of high quality. How much is something like Pinkberry? Of course, until you compare taste, you really can't say if it is too expensive or not (and I really can't say how it compares to other places, since I am not an expert on that stuff).
That said, the decor is part of the point. The owners clearly want this to be a hangout. It is *not* just a place to go get yogurt and leave, and I think that needs to be taken into account (as marmotsm mentioned, they plan to offer live music on weekends, and host various events). It may not be what you would want, but trust me, here in Merced, it is very, very, very much needed. If you want cheap generic, go to ColdStone.
susancinsf, thanks for another grand review.
I just went this evening for the first time. I second your review. Forte froyo doesn't seem to have the slightly strange aftertaste that Pinkberry sometimes does. I must admit that walking in, I felt like I'd landed back at home in the Bay Area at a pearl tea or froyo place. I am a tart froyo fan, so Forte has become close to my heart. It will be interesting to see how it does since i think this type of frozen yogurt is an acquired taste for some. It won't hit the spot for people searching for a Cold Stone experience, or a TCBY frozen yogurt experience. The staff mentioned that they plan to have live music eventually from time to time.
On a random note, this evening numerous people were asking about samples. Staff (if I understood correctly), said that because it's self serve, they couldn't offer sample cups because the health department seemed to think people might be unsanitary, and keep reusing the sample cups...potentially contaminating the self serve areas. Random, but I could see the health department saying that.
Being a green and locally owned business, I do hope Forte thrives. Decent product, good staff.